Sophie Skelton knew what she was getting herself into when she accepted the function of Brianna Fraser on Outlander—or at the very least she thought she did. She had already spent hours poring by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, which function the premise for the Starz present, earlier than her very first audition in 2014. “I learn from e-book two to e-book 4,” Skelton says, remembering the best way she feverishly scanned the pages for all of “Brianna’s bits.”
She wouldn’t hear again in regards to the function for an additional 12 months, however throughout that point, Skelton by no means stopped excited about Brianna: the witty, headstrong school scholar from Boston who travels again in time to reunite together with her English mom, Claire Randall Fraser, and meet her organic father, Scottish highlander Jamie Fraser, in 18th century North Carolina.
To the uninitiated, Outlander’s time-traveling, globe-trotting premise may sound like fairly the doozy. Add Gabaldon’s exhaustive supply materials into the combination—9 books, three novellas and counting—and also you’ve bought an epic story that rivals the likes of Sport of Thrones. Like George R.R. Martin’s collection, Gabaldon’s books had a devoted readership earlier than Outlander’s premiere in 2014. For years, these followers waited for his or her model of Bree to look on display; she was towering, strong-shouldered, blue-eyed and boasted thick pink hair like her father Jamie, whose luscious locks have been as soon as described by Gabaldon as a “shining mass of auburn, copper, cinnamon and gold.” However that’s not Skelton.
When she arrives at StyleCaster’s places of work in New York Metropolis, Skelton stands shorter than most members of the make-up and picture crew—and that’s with Louboutin heels on, their signature pink soles peeking out together with her each step. Her eyes, a deep honey brown, gaze across the small library the place we’ve arrange for the day. After getting acquainted, she pulls off the black peacoat she arrived in, revealing the lithe body of a former dancer. “I did ballet for years,” she tells us later throughout her photoshoot, stretching her arms in ways in which solely somebody with a practiced sense of grace can handle to make look so good. Her hair, darkish brown with a pure wave, is a stark distinction to her character’s curly ginger mane on Outlander. Now she wears it slicked straight behind her ears, gently pushing any rogue strands again between photographs.
Days later, talking in her mild British accent over Zoom, Skelton reminisces on the start of her Outlander journey. She remembers a second with showrunner Matthew B. Roberts, proper earlier than her casting was made public in early 2016. “I bear in mind him sitting me down and being like, ‘Simply bear in mind when the announcement goes out, you’re going to get some hate since you’re not American, you don’t have blue eyes, you don’t have pink hair. However don’t fear, you’re our Bree.’”
Whereas Skelton was warned of the potential blowback over her casting, it wouldn’t be the primary time an actor within the forged didn’t match up with their character’s description from the books; Irish actress Caitríona Balfe, who performs her mom on the collection, isn’t precisely the curvy, brown-eyed Claire of Gabaldon’s novels. However 4 months later, when Skelton’s character made her onscreen debut throughout the second season of the collection, the actress was up in opposition to yet one more hurdle: In line with Skelton, some viewers simply “didn’t like Bree,” interval.
Once we first meet her on Outlander, Bree is a putting, brainy highschool senior going by all of the rising pains of adolescence—and that features frequent arguments together with her mom, Claire. Skelton says this was removed from essentially the most “palatable” introduction on the collection, however however believes this preliminary stress between her and Balfe’s character was vital. “It was a extra attention-grabbing dynamic to start out off with,” she says, including that it made for “extra of a journey for them to turn out to be nearer as mom and daughter.” And this journey has been an extended one, seeing them by shared previous and current traumas—from the loss of life of Frank Randall, Claire’s modern-day husband and the daddy who raised Bree, to situations of sexual assault that occur to each mom and daughter following their travels by time.
Six years and 5 seasons later, Skelton admits that Brianna can nonetheless “generally be a tough tablet to swallow” for some viewers. “Typically as Sophie, I feel Brianna takes issues too far. I’m like, ‘Cease punching individuals, Bree,’” she says with fun. “However I’ve to have the ability to defend it.” Certainly, Skelton is one in every of Bree’s fiercest supporters—even, if not particularly, throughout her character’s messier moments.
Skelton brings up an notorious scene from season 4 of Outlander, the place Brianna slaps her father Jamie throughout the face after he mistakenly beats up her associate Roger, performed by Richard Rankin, for considering he was the person who raped her (that disgraced title goes to Stephen Bonnet, an Irish pirate performed by Ed Speleers). At first, it was a response that Skelton herself couldn’t fairly perceive: “Brianna is clever sufficient to understand it wasn’t Jamie’s fault. It was a mistake,” she says. “I simply needed to assume she’s doing that factor the place, whenever you’re mad, you are taking it out on those you’re keen on as a result of you possibly can.’”
In a present like Outlander, the stakes are all the time excessive. Feelings run even greater. For Bree—who got here from the identical period because the Free Speech Motion and traded her Nineteen Seventies bell-bottoms for the prim and correct petticoats of the 1770s—Skelton is aware of that generally a uncooked response is solely overdue. “What I really like about Brianna is that she exhibits that individuals don’t all the time behave in the most effective mild. None of us are excellent,” she says. “I like that Bree’s not Hollywood-washed. You actually see all of her vulnerabilities, you see the instances the place she behaves ‘badly.’”
However not everybody takes to this habits kindly. Skelton is fast to level out the double customary that exists for her character—each in Outlander’s 18th-century universe and the world from which audiences are watching the present in the present day. “It’s so attention-grabbing to see individuals watch the present who love Jamie and excuse every little thing that Jamie does,” Skelton observes, “but when Brianna does the identical factor, it’s like, ‘Wow, what a naughty lady.’”
“I suppose the boys have turn out to be the thing of need for lots of followers, and generally they aren’t all the time so type to the ladies, which is a disgrace,” Skelton continues. “I actually hope that that begins to vary. However on the similar time, nearly all of followers are tremendous supportive.” Sooner or later, Skelton says she desires to see views shift sufficient so there’s “not such a stigma for ladies” to behave the identical means as their counterparts on display.
Skelton is paving a means for this future, on her personal phrases. “My confidence has grown much more,” she says. “Being on a present for six years, it simply offers you extra space to discover, to talk up and shield individuals.” This not solely contains defending herself and her castmates, however Outlander’s viewers as nicely.
Sexual assault is an unlucky, however actual, element of the Outlander universe. Bree’s father, Jamie, is raped early on within the collection. Years later, her mom Claire is kidnapped and raped by a renegade gang throughout Outlander’s season 5 finale. In coping with Outlander’s tougher scenes involving sexual assault, Skelton feels an immense accountability to analysis the bodily and emotional experiences of survivors and method the topic with nice care. “Caítriona and I had plenty of conversations about it. If we’re going to indicate plenty of rape and we’re going to speak about therapeutic and PTSD, then now we have to justify why we’re exhibiting it,” she explains.
For Skelton, these scenes provide the chance to foster extra trustworthy conversations about trauma and restoration on tv. Viewers see this method on Outlander season six, as Skelton’s character doesn’t pressure her mom to speak about what occurred; as a substitute, she offers her the house she must course of. “Even in the event you’ve been by the identical trauma, each expertise is totally different and each means of therapeutic is totally different,” Skelton says. “I hope it helps individuals who’ve been by it as a result of it exhibits there’s no proper or mistaken technique to take care of one thing.”
In fact, therapeutic is just not all the time linear. However on the onset of Outlander season six, we meet a extra “settled model” of Bree, Skelton says. Her character has grown up significantly on the collection—she is now a spouse and a mom herself—and she or he is trying to find her place on Fraser’s Ridge, the spectacular tract of land and neighborhood helmed by her father Jamie. In a single memorable scene early within the season, Bree “invents” matches, an innovation but to have been developed in 1770s America. When she decides to share the excellent news on the Fraser household dinner desk, her father assumes that she’s saying that she’s pregnant (she isn’t—not but, at the very least). Moments later, when she lastly demonstrates her creation, the response is lackluster; everybody already is aware of the right way to mild a fireplace, in spite of everything.
Skelton is wiser now, too, and says she “actually fought in opposition to” taking part in this match scene in a means that the “older model of Bree” might need. Because the grasp of Bree’s inner world, Skelton is bringing a heat to her character which will have in any other case been eluded on the web page. “There’s a extremely beautiful dynamic change now, the place she’s accepting the time and she or he desires to make it higher. However she’s not going to berate these individuals for not having her similar mindset,” Skelton notes. “It’s not their fault. In fact they’d assume I’m pregnant. That’s simply how this time is!”
In a world the place a girl’s function is basically chalked as much as child-rearing, it’s not shocking Skelton’s character is dealing with pressures to have one other child—however these pressures aren’t all the time coming from the place you may anticipate. Bree and Roger are attempting to get pregnant, however haven’t had luck but after their son, Jeremiah “Jemmy” MacKenzie, was conceived across the similar time as Bree’s rape in season three. Whereas Jemmy’s capacity to time journey in Outlander season 5 appeared to trace at him having his dad and mom’ shared genes for the reward, the collection has but to supply conclusive proof that Roger is his father—and the query of his true parentage stays for them to search out out. “It’s the elephant within the room,” Skelton says.
“There’s a query deep down in there, however I don’t assume it’s one thing [Brianna and Roger] consciously take into consideration on a regular basis,” she provides. “However I do assume as soon as they’re attempting to conceive, it resurfaces that dialog and that doubt as a result of Bree clearly is aware of that she can get pregnant. However possibly Roger can’t conceive. I feel all of this stuff might be going round their heads too. And hopefully, it doesn’t tear them aside.”
No matter you undergo, there’s a mild on the finish of the tunnel.
When she talks about the way forward for Outlander, Skelton has a realizing glimmer in her eye. “I really feel unhealthy for followers,” she jokes. “They’re simply now watching season six however we’re already ramping up for seven!” Whereas the following droughtlander will hopefully not final almost so long as the final, Outlander followers have lots left to expertise from Outlander season six. And for Skelton, it’s an opportunity to absorb a chapter that took years for her character to lastly expertise.
“We’ve seen Brianna from age 16 to her late 20s now, and she or he’s modified a lot. However she’s additionally who she is at her core—that hasn’t modified. We’ve simply seen her in very traumatizing circumstances,” Skelton says. “This season, it’s very nice simply to have her as a beacon to indicate that, no matter you undergo, there’s a mild on the finish of the tunnel. I feel it’s actually vital to indicate that individuals can come to date.”
Outlander Season 6 is out there to stream on Starz. New episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. Learn how to observe Outlander without spending a dime right here.